CM on Discipline

Dear Reader,

Contemporary, conservative Christian thought on discipline seems to rely heavily on spanking. It may be, as in the ver popular Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp, combined with other approaches such as talking to the child about their wrongdoing, but the corporal element is always there. Indeed one is believed to be neglecting their biblical duty if they do not spank in some manner. The oft quoted verse in defense of this practice is Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son,  but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” [ESV]. (See my earlier posts on this verse here, here, and here. I guess I’ve blogged on this a lot.)

We have spanked our children though at the moment I couldn’t recall the last time I did so. At ages 6 through 11, spanking is no longer a common occurrence around here. And this is as it should be, I think. Spanking can be a useful tool, especially for very young children, but if discipline is done well it should die out over time. I am very wary of methods which would still see spanking as a major means of discipline as one gets into the tween and teen years.

Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on habit training is with the idea that we train our children before they are naughty and we (hopefully) do not have to discipline them after the fact. Sin is a very serious thing, and I think it is right that we take preventative measures and do not only wait to respond to trouble after it has occurred.

With regard to corporal punishment, Charlotte says:

“Discipline does not mean a birch-rod, nor a corner, nor a slipper, nor a bed, nor any such last resort of the feeble. The sooner we cease to believe in merely penal suffering as part of the divine plan, the sooner will a spasmodic resort to the birch-rod die out in families. We do not say the rod is never useful; we do say it should never be necessary.” [Parents and Children, p.40]

Of course, children are sinful just as their parents are, and there will be times when correction is needed. My own thought is that if children are remorseful and seem to understand their sin after being spoken to about it, then there is no need to resort to spanking or time-outs or other such tools.  Our goal in the end is to turn them from sin. If this has been done, I see no biblical requirement to institute corporal punishment every time.


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